- Posted November 19, 2010 by
White Plains, New York
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The search for good schools
Finding the Best Fit for My Child
Eleven years ago, when we moved our family back to Westchester, New York from London following a three-year expatriate assignment, I made a bad decision when I re-enrolled my son in his former public school. As the saying goes, “the shoemaker’s children are barefoot,” and in my case, as a former teacher who’s now an educational consultant, I should have known better than to take the obvious and easy route. For the past 12 years I’ve helped other families to ensure that their children attend schools that are right for them. But when it came to my own child, I couldn’t have made a worse decision than re-enrolling my son in his former public school for 7th grade.
My son’s room in London was wall papered with Michael Jordan. On his first day of school back home he was cut from the basketball team. Luckily basketball wasn’t his only interest. Even as a boy, Dan loved music and drama – but neither electric nor acoustic bass were school band instruments. So when the band scrubbed and dressed for performances, Dan sat at home on the computer.
For high school we moved Dan to a private school. Having told the admissions director he enjoyed drama, he was placed in a performing arts class. On his first day of school Dan raised his hand and said that he wanted to drop the class. His teacher responded that this was his arts elective, which he only should take if he loved it. He invited Dan to see him after class. In private, the teacher asked why he wanted to drop the class and Dan admitted that it was because he couldn't sing. The teacher played a few notes on the piano and asked him to sing them. When he tried, the teacher responded, "I see what you mean. But I can tell already that you have a wonderful, outgoing personality. I promise I will help you, and I will never embarrass you. If that’s the only reason, I encourage you to stay."
Dan took the teacher at his word – and he kept it. In the first class performance Dan was given a funny solo that he could carry off. He was one of 6 freshmen selected for the high school musical chorus. The following summer he attended a performing arts camp and soon began voice lessons. During his sophomore and junior years he had lead roles in the school musicals. As a senior in high school, Dan was chosen for the highly selective a cappella group. He became music major in college and has embarked on an astoundingly successful career in the music and theater industry.
It was the combination of the teacher’s honesty and his encouragement that changed Dan’s life. Moving my child to the right school told him we accepted him as he was and acknowledged what was important to him. The new school satisfied his quest for intellectual, musical, theatrical and social fulfillment. As a result, Dan developed lasting relationships with peers and teachers. He learned to advocate for himself and seek mentors, skills that have proven invaluable to him throughout college and in building his career.
Since that time I have shared this anecdote with parents we work with at my company, School Choice International. It helps families redefine what they are seeking, often from status and facilities, to a school where faculty nurture kids, encourage them to take risks and help them to succeed in what matters to them.